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Comparison of Standard Protocols for the Treatment of Canine Leishmaniasis in an Endemic Area with and Without Zinc Oral Supplementation 

Paola Paradies, George Lubas, Fabrizio Iarussi, Donatella Pulpito, Emanuele Pezzuto, and Mariateresa Sasanelli


Comparison of Standard Protocols for the Treatment of Canine Leishmaniasis in an Endemic Area with and Without Zinc Oral Supplementation

Successful treatment of canine leishmaniasis (CanL) depends on an effective cellular immune response. Zinc is an essential trace element for the immune system and in dogs with clinical leishmaniasis low serum zinc levels have been reported. The aim of this work was to evaluate the effect of zinc oral administration during treatment of CanL.

Eighteen dogs from an endemic area were enrolled showing clinical signs of leishmaniasis and diagnosed by positive parasitological and serological tests. Dogs were subdivided in three treatment groups: MA, meglumine antimoniate 50 mg/kg SC for 30 days with allopurinol 10 mg/kg PO BID for 7 months; MZ, meglumine antimoniate 50 mg/kg SC BID for 30 days with zinc 2.2 mg/kg/die PO for 12 months; MAZ, same as MA group plus supplemented with zinc 2.2 mg/kg/die PO for 12 months. Each dog was monitored for 12 months using clinical and skin scores and some blood biochemical markers.

Dogs in MZ and MAZ group showed a better and earlier improvement of clinical and skin scores in comparison to control dogs (MA group). Among few blood markers studied (hemoglobin, albumin, γ globulins and A/G ratio) dogs in MAZ group did improve and earlier than other groups suggesting that zinc improves the condition where allopurinol is also present.

The supplementation of zinc in the treatment protocol for CanL increased the serum zinc concentrations. In addition, preliminary data showed in group MZ and MAZ dogs a faster response to therapy and the elongation of the disease-free interval time.


Canine leishmaniasis (CanL) due to Leishmania infantum is endemic in Mediterranean countries where it has been estimated that 50–80% of the general canine population is infected by L. infantum and the prevalence of CanL varies from 2% to 5%. The L. infantum frequently follows an insidious and chronic pattern of infection. Therefore, CanL is a disease in which infection does not equal clinical illness resulting in a high prevalence of subclinical infection. A broad range of immune responses and clinical manifestations have been described in CanL. Infection in dogs may be subclinical or manifested as a self-limiting disease, or a severe, and sometimes, fatal illness [4]; therefore, cellular immune response against disease is fundamental for leishmaniasis regression. 

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